Local News

Fire Wipes Out 'Lost Colony' Costumes

Posted September 11, 2007
Updated September 13, 2007

— Fire devastated Outer Banks' history Tuesday.

Buildings that contained historic costumes used for the The Lost Colony play burned to the ground.

A few bright specks of cloth in a sea of dark ashes were what was left of the waterfront costume shop and most of the costumes for the Lost Colony Outdoor Drama.

“It's very sad,” former Lost Colony actor Brian Jones said.

The Lost Colony is a story of 120 people who set up the first English Settlement in 1587. They vanished by 1590.

Jones is also a local photographer, and he was snapping pictures to help preserve the terrible moment. He has much better memories of the place: he played Governor White in the show for four years.

“It's the reason I moved to the Outer Banks, and it's the reason that I got into theater, this show” Jones said.

Fire swept through the costume shop shortly after midnight. Someone spotted the flames from across the Roanoke Sound and called 911.

“We want to say thank you to whoever the anonymous caller was, because I think their quick reporting of the fire actually saved the rest of the theater,” said Carl Curnutte, executive director and producer.

The main stage, sets and props are untouched, but the attention focused on the losses made that small consolation.

Except for some costumes that were being dry-cleaned and others that had been sent to the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh for an exhibition, all the costumes were lost, including those for the characters of colonists and Native Americans.

The building that was destroyed was the Irene Rains Costume Shop, named for a woman who had saved costumes during a 1947 fire.

“The visual memory of our show has basically been lost. We've had costumes all the way back to 1937,” Curnutte said.

“Unfortunately, most of the collection is priceless. You can't even put a price tag on something like this,” Curnutte said.

It could take millions of dollars just to get some kind of replacement ready for next season.

“This is a very strong and vital show and it will go on, but you can't bring back that history… You know, you can build everything else back, but you can't bring back the history,” Jones said.

Rains and then Fred Voelpel had made the costumes from the 1940s through the early 1980s, the theater said in a statement.


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  • angora2 Sep 12, 2007

    Anyone who has ever seen this production won't soon forget the big BOOM of a cannon during a quiet part of the show. I've seen the production several times and still jump three feet in the air when I hear this boom.

  • Skepticghoul Sep 11, 2007

    No place in this story mentioned the costumes were uninsured. Where did that come from? Pulled out of the air?

    It's very sad and insurance cannot replace history (newsflash!!!). Queen Elizabeth's costume was legendary. It weighed 35 pounds, if I remember correctly.

  • yougottabekidding Sep 11, 2007

    Hey nunya,
    It isn't just the 4th graders that study NC history. I just got home from my college history class where we are studying the earlie America. The Lost Colony was an important part of our country's history. This class has really sparked an intrest in NC's history for me. I was hoping to take my boys (ages 14y, 12y, 10y, and 3 months old) to see the play next summer as part of a homeschool field trip.

  • Heather Sep 11, 2007

    Very sad. I saw this show about 12 years ago and it was wonderful. I hope they keep going despite the loss.

  • nunyabizness Sep 11, 2007

    I have seen The Lost Colony three times; once as a child and twice as an adult. It is such an amazing production! Maybe the state could shift a little of the lottery proceeds to help them refurbish; after all, it is educational and all fourth graders in our state study NC history. I would buy more tickets if that were the case. Hopefully, the show will go on. I had planned to go again next season.

  • FlSunshine Sep 11, 2007

    I hope they get replaced. I grew up with the production and was always proud of our NC heritage. Later two of my children were in the cast of "The Cross and the Sword" in St. Augustine. Paul Green wrote that play also. I hope NC never lets "The Lost Colony" be lost like the people is St. Augustine did to Cross and Sword.

  • FloydRTurbo Sep 11, 2007

    To grow up in NC in the 50s/60s and to have seen "Lost Colony", "Unto These Hills" and "Horn In The West".

    Esse Quam Videri ..... "thou the scorners may sneer at and whitlings defame her, still my heart swells with gladness whenever we name her ..."

  • angora2 Sep 11, 2007

    This production has limped around on a shoestring budget for many years. Insurance? Who's gonna pay for that? "Commercial entity?" Hardly. The actors are housed in shabby nearby apartments and are thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this special group. This has been the case for decades. I can name at least a dozen people who have gone on to sucessful acting, singing, and dancing careers, and who still remember their summers in Manteo with great fondness. Andy Griffith started out there too. Now that he has moved back to Manteo, perhaps he'll start a fund-raising effort and donate his own $$ to the cause.

  • Adelinthe Sep 11, 2007

    "Sorry folks. but I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who does not carry insurance -- especially commercial entities."

    "The public doesn't understand that these costumes were not insured."

    Where's it say that? Or is this inside information that wasn't published in the article?

    Am sorry for their loss.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • uncfan89 Sep 11, 2007

    where in the story did it say they were uninsured?
    That is a terrible loss, I remember going to the Lost Colony Production as a child and remember how beautiful the costumes were, and was looking forward to taking my child to see the play hopefully everything will be replaced soon. A real tragedy for the State of North Carolina.